National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness of breast cancer, risk factors and screening importance. While breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in the United States, early detection and treatment improvements are contributing to higher survival rates.
FSCJ’s own Beth Harvey recently observed the 20th year anniversary of the day she received her diagnosis with breast cancer. On October 4, 1996, as she was getting ready for work, Beth noticed a lump in her breast and feared the worst. She was able to get an emergency mammogram and within minutes, she received the news that would forever change her life. Beth, a young mother of two girls, had never sought breast cancer screenings because she had not yet reached the recommended age so the diagnosis came as a shock to her and her entire family. After her surgery just days later, the pathology reports showed that she had more than 10 cancers and underwent a radical mastectomy and immediately began chemotherapy.
Her case was so extreme and rare that she required subsequent monitoring for 15 years post-remission, which actually served as a source of comfort Beth admits. She continued to work at FSCJ throughout her treatment and embraced as much normalcy in her personal and professional life as possible. “It was important for me to have a purpose and to be able to focus my attention on things other than my cancer. My family and my work were my outlet.” While the journey through diagnosis, treatment and recovery was traumatic, Beth believes she is a survivor because she embraced the news, gave herself a one-year timeframe of letting go of control so her physicians could do their jobs and faced her cancer head-on.
For those who are coping with a cancer diagnosis, Beth is a willing support, but only for those who seek her advice. “Everyone copes with a cancer diagnosis in their own unique way. In my opinion, it’s not a time to reflect but rather a time to be assertive and to set your sights on healing. I had to figure out what my goals for my life were and I took it one day at a time from there.”
Today, Beth is an advocate for various local breast cancer support organizations and enjoys spending time with her family and focusing on her health and fitness.
It’s important to note that breast cancer does not only affect women. According to the American Cancer Society’s report in 2012, about 2,140 cases were expected to occur among men, accounting for about one percent of all breast cancers.
Ask your physician about screening mammograms, which are fully covered by Medicare and insurance. To find a list of providers in your area, visit floridablue.com.